Not too long ago TRADITION & MODERNE was known primarily as an organizer of a small specialist music festival in Germany. These days the German company has become much more than that. TRADITION & MODERNE have expanded their activities and the company has changed into a three-legged independent enterprise doing business as a record label/publishing company, a booking agency and a festival organizer. There’s a reason for this kind of growth: after more than a dozen years of successful work in the music business, TRADITION & MODERNE still remains a labor of love.
Since the early Nineties company founder and owner Petra Hanisch has put out quality CD recordings of blues, jazz, gospel, world and folk music. It’s all music she feels close to and this attitude of dedication has turned the name of her company into an equivalent for competence and quality. This seems to be a music company like they used to be, in fact – still independent and mainly focused on music and artists. "There’s a lot of music around that just leaves me cold,” Hanisch remarks when asked about her approach to running a record label, "but then there’s other music that I love and I have repeatedly found myself putting it out.”
Trusting one’s own instincts and tastes seems to be the simple but winning formula. It’s also the cornerstone of an attitude that gets lost more and more – a disppearing virtue from the corporate world of music where the record men of old have become endangered species while record women have always been something of a prized rarity anyway...
Trusting one’s musical instincts seems to have become something of a rare virtue within the industry. But on the other hand, this attitude of dedication puts labels like TRADITION & MODERNE quite in line with the general politics introduced by many names from the history of the business – people motivated by idealism. Without people like this a great deal of now classic blues, r’n’b, folk or jazz would have remained unreleased. So if there’s a general objective or motivation for TRADITION & MODERNE’s activities, it’s the desire to promote music that deserves to be heard. Music that has the power to create a brand name that can be trusted in terms of musical excellence - with personal taste acting as a trustworthy criteria for quality.
As early as the mid-Eighties Berlin-born journalist and music lover Petra Hanisch had started to focus her work on the role of women in blues and jazz. With a special interest in African-American social history she started to put together many features for German public radio, dealing with many neglected topics from the early days of American blues and jazz history. With this sort of radio work she became quite a well-known media voice in Germany. While working on a radio feature about veteran New York record producer and label owner Rosetta Reitz – a woman that proved to be very inspiring in terms her own future work – the German journalist decided to put together a music festival with the agenda of featuring female roots music artists working on the fringes of the mainstream music industry.
Thus, the first of the now firmly established "Women in (E)Motion” festival series was born in 1988. Initially the festival simultaneously took place in the cities of Hamburg and Bremen, but soon the more familiar surroundings of Bremen, Petra Hanisch’s hometown for many years, proved to be more fitting and comfortable for this event. "Women in (E)Motion” was an instant success both with the public and the media, resulting in widespread support and acclaim.
The small music festival from Bremen turned into a popular cultural event in Germany not just limited to the city’s loyal audiences. But the city has now become a permanent home for this one-of-a-kind festival. To this day, "Women in (E)Motion” presents mostly female artists from the genres of blues, jazz, folk and world music. Authentic artists who are working from a tradition but have come up with music of their own. Artists that can be challenging to mainstream audiences, but have something original to contribute to the world of contemporary music.
Co-operating with Radio Bremen - the region’s popular public radio station - was to be quite helpful for introducing the festival and its sounds to the open-minded German audiences. The people at Radio Bremen had the experience and technical expertise for documenting an evening of real music live on tape. After more than ten years the festival is still going strong today and what applies to TRADITION & MODERNE the record label also applies to the festival line-ups: it’s all about music that deserves to be heard. But while the concerts mainly focus on female artists, the record label does not. Most importantly, TRADITION & MODERNE is not a dry academic enterprise. This is a label that aims at promoting living and breathing music that has the power to enrich and inspire.
As soon as the festival had been lifted off the ground, TRADITION & MODERNE found themselves with many excellent live recordings on their hands and they decided to try and find a way to put them out - the hour of birth of TRADITION & MODERNE the record label. The year was 1992 and the choice of a name was spontaneous. But it proved to be more than fitting for a company with an appreciation for musical history and a keen interest on the influences of the tradition on contemporary music.
The premier bunch of releases included wonderful live recordings of the great Odetta, Amina Claudine Myers, Rory Block and Jo Anne Kelly – female artists with a strong impetus on fusing traditions with their own individuality. With this initial batch of releases TRADITION & MODERNE promptly managed to secure international distribution. Today every single one of the label’s releases can be found in shops of more that ten countries and reasonable marketing efforts are guaranteed.
In 2001, the label’s catalog has grown to include a couple of dozen titles and the original concept of putting out live recordings from the festival has long given way to a much more varied approach. These days the label mainly puts out first-rate studio productions from popular artists such as roots music legend Taj Mahal or celebrated Canadian songstress Holly Cole – the talents of the latter were discovered for European audiences at the Bremen festival.
While corporate politics are fundamental in leading many popular but non-mainstream artists away from the world of quick profits, TRADITION & MODERNE’S dedicated efforts on behalf of their artists have proven to be real assets. The company has now repeatedly organized European tours for both Taj Mahal and Holly Cole . Nowadays the work of a booking agency is eating up one more share of precious time at the company office. TRADITION & MODERNE has turned into a business with three equally successful branches – label, booking agency, festival organizer.
But there’s a method to the "madness”. In all its business activities TRADITION & MODERNE remains to be dedicated to the principles of quality and excellence. This applies to every musical, technical and artwork aspect of the CD releases as well as the way the company puts on tours and the festival. Last but not at all least it also applies to the level of competence and integrity both in a human relations and a business sense. This personal integrity has been essential in turning TRADITION & MODERNE into a quality brand name for a successful independent roots music company.